GTI announces production of high-octane renewable gasoline

By Gas Technology Institute | June 12, 2014

In a recently completed project, Gas Technology Institute worked with Haldor Topsoe Inc. on an integrated biorefinery to make renewable drop-in gasoline, successfully producing a high-octane transportation fuel. The use of renewable gasoline could reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 92 percent when compared to conventional gasoline.

"Over the past four years, we've demonstrated an economically viable method for thermochemical conversion of woody biomass into gasoline. We’re extremely pleased with the positive results and the potential to meet growing energy needs with cost-effective and clean renewable resources," says Rick Knight, GTI institute engineer and manager of the installation, integration, and operational testing at GTI.

The pilot-scale project, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) integrated biorefineries program, converted wood into bio-derived gasoline by fully integrating and optimizing biomass gasification and syngas cleanup steps with a unique process to turn syngas into gasoline.

The test campaigns took place at GTI’s state-of-the-art gasification campus in metro Chicago. First a GTI-based Andritz-Carbona biomass gasifier turned wood into syngas. That syngas was cleaned of tars and other contaminants in a reforming process jointly developed by Andritz-Carbona and Haldor Topsoe. Then the GTI Morphysorb process removed carbon dioxide and sulfur gases in an acid gas removal (AGR) pilot unit. For the last step, the Haldor Topsoe Improved Gasoline Synthesis (TIGAS) process converted the syngas into gasoline blendstock. Other partners included forest products company UPM, who provided the wood feedstock, and Phillips 66, who assisted with design, supervised fuel testing, arranged fleet testing and provided funding.

In October 2013 the team produced about 4,000 gallons of gasoline suitable for use as a gasoline blendstock. This was used for single-engine emissions testing, demonstrating that renewable gasoline would meet EPA standards in blends up to 80 percent.

The final test campaign in March 2014 produced sufficient quantities for testing to prove that the gasoline can be used in existing automobile engines. Around 7,770 gallons have been sent to a blending facility in Michigan to prepare it for a fleet test at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio. Four pairs of vehicles will each log 75,000 miles comparing performance of the bio-based gasoline blend with conventional gasoline. Results will be available in September 2014.

"For the first time, all the individual steps are now integrated into one plant to produce transportation fuel. In the future, biomass may be a significant feedstock source and the combination of technologies demonstrated in this project will be part of the solution to the future fuel supply," said Niels Udengaard, syngas technology manager and overall project lead at Haldor Topsoe.

"The right partnership is critical to deliver successful high-impact results. This is a prime example of an effective team that brings together public and private sectors with the combined technical expertise, facilities and funding required to transition technologies into proven integrated processes," said Vann Bush, GTI managing director of energy conversion. "We are creating biofuels from renewable resources that help to keep our environment clean and convert lower-value resources into high-value products."